Bakeries have been around since the Roman Empire, aka pretty much forever. Unlike some food trends (what is broccoli coffee, anyway?) they’re here to stay.
In the baking mecca of Montreal, there’s definitely no shortage of places to grab the best bagel you’ve ever had.
But when they opened the gluten-free bakery Cookie Stéfanie in 2012, entrepreneur Marie-Claude Huard (along with eponymous co-owner Stéfanie Poulin) wanted to hone in on not only the perennial popularity of baked goods, but also the rising demand for those that were gluten-free.
“After completing my studies in nutrition, I was doing R&D in a cookie factory. And I really liked it. So after that, I wanted to start my own business,” Huard tells Daily Hive.
Huard was looking for a way to break into the baking world, but she had also started noticing there was a lot of attention towards gluten-free baking.
To see what all the fuss was about eating gluten-free, she tried it for herself — and found she loved the diet. “I was feeling very good. But there was nothing very good [gluten-free] in Montreal.”
Fast forward to 2019, and Cookie Stéfanie is knocking the gluten-free baking niche out of the park. “In November, it’s going to be seven years. I am very happy about it and very proud of what we’ve done.”
Huard says she’s always doing research to come up with the newest and best recipes, which she writes all herself. “Everything is made here. All the recipes are created by me. One of our famous cakes is the carrot cake. It’s our best-seller.”
So what makes the goodies at Cookie Stéfanie so delicious? Especially considering that gluten-free baking is usually synonymous with the likes of cardboard.
“It’s really hard to make cakes gluten-free and have them not be hard like a rock. So we have to follow the recipes exactly as they’re written.”
Huard says besides following the recipes, gluten-free baking involves a very specific approach to the use of flour. “The choice of flour is very important. And the quantity, because we mix the flours. We use brown rice flour, tapioca flour, and millet flour. The percentage is really important.”
Any other secrets in taking something that’s usually hard and making it soft? “We always have to sift the flour to make everything fluffy. The cake is going to be more fluffy if we sift the flour.”
But besides having a prime product, all of the sifting, ratios, and research would be in vain if it weren’t for Cookie Stéfanie’s clients.
“Customer service is the first thing, and [then it’s] the quality of the product. These are the two big things that we have to take care of.”
Huard says their busiest time of the day is lunchtime. “We have a lot of people. So everything has to be very fast. We are in the financial district in Old Montreal.”
How does she manage to keep up with the pace of business? Huard says the one thing that makes it a lot easier to keep up is her implementation of Interac Flash.
“People are going to work, and they want everything to be fast, so Interac Flash is really important. They come, they take a coffee, pay with contactless, and bye.”
Huard says she has to ensure busy customers have a checkout experience that is as convenient for them as possible. “We have a lot of the same customers that come here day after day. So if they come back, I think they like the service that we give them.”
Interac research shows that 75% of customers have stepped away from an in-store purchase because of a long checkout line. Using a payment service like Interac Flash enables businesses like Huard’s to serve more hungry customers while keeping them happy.
Cookie Stéfanie is also proud to give back to the charities that mean the most to them, including the The Quebec Mounted Police Members’ Association Foundation and others that help give back to homeless and young victims of trafficking.